Is losing The X Factor actually better for chart success?

Simon Cowell still wishes One Direction had won the 2010 series, but the X Factor, as 1D themselves prove, can be a formidable launch pad regardless of where you come

Each week, singers are falling by the wayside on the eleventh series of the X Factor, as we race towards the final and this year’s bid for Christmas Number 1. Knee-wiggling entertainer Stevi Ritchie continues to draw votes, while crooners such as Jay James and Paul Akister have been sent on their merry way.  


All four of the judges – Simon Cowell, Mel B, Louis Walsh and Cheryl Fernandez-Versini – still (at the time of writing) have at least one act in the competition, so have a shot at being the victorious mentor. Lauren Platt, Andrea Faustini, Fleur East, there’s plenty of support for those singers still left in the competition.

But winning isn’t everything on the X Factor. In fact, losing seems to be just as helpful when it comes to chart success.

The obvious example is One Direction. The five-piece boy band, put together by the judges, placed third in the 2010 series behind Rebecca Ferguson and winner Matt Cardle. Among the many examples of their success, 1D’s third album Midnight Memories sold four million copies around the world in just six weeks, making it the world’s biggest selling album of 2013. And, well, you don’t see Matt Cardle with his own Boots make up range now, do you?

It’s a tale of success for boy bands too. 2008 runners-up JLS (who lost the title to Alexandra Burke) went on to have five UK Number 1s, including their debut track Beat Again, which spent seventy weeks in the charts. In fact, Beat Again out-sold the only band to ever win the show – 2012 champions Little Mix – whose first post-X Factor track Wings sold 464,000 to JLS’ 564,000. JLS have since split of course, but we won’t mention that (again).

2010’s winner Joe McElderry is the king of reality shows. X Factor, Popstar to Operastar, The Jump… he’s won them all. He’s certainly popular with voters. But his winner’s single, The Climb, failed to reach Number 1 after a campaign to see Rage Against the Machine take the Christmas spot saw them win by 50,000 sales. If that wasn’t enough, also speeding past McElderry was runner-up Olly Murs, who’s gone on to have five number ones, his songs have spent a total of 933 weeks in the charts, he’s appeared on Robbie Williams’s album, has been a host on Xtra Factor…need I go on?

Fourth place proves fruitful too, with Cher Lloyd earning a Number 1 for her debut track Swagger Jagger. Cher almost didn’t make the live shows, in what was the seventh series, getting the backing of mentor Cheryl (then Cole) after she could barely get her words out at Judges’ Houses. But that first track made its mark on the music scene, sticking around in the charts for twenty two weeks after selling 243,000 copies. To put that into perspective, that year’s winner Cardle (not to keep pointing out how he’s been beaten…) spent twenty eight weeks in the charts with his winner’s single When We Collide, so Cher wasn’t far off.

Heck, let’s not knock sixth place either. Need I remind you of the phenomenon that is Jedward? Twin brothers John and Edward Grimes didn’t come within reach of the 2009 title, but that hasn’t stopped them. Their version of Under Pressure hit the charts at number 2 in the UK in 2010, but took top spot in Ireland. Their track Lipstick charted at 40 in 2011, while topping the charts in Ireland in the same year, quickly followed by another number one in Ireland, Bad Behaviour.

Even Ella Henderson finished sixth during 2012’s ninth series and you can’t move for her single, Ghost.

Of course, winning has its advantages. Cowell jokes even now he wishes One Direction had won the show, telling the Metro, it’s “a badge of honour”. Indeed, Leona Lewis has done pretty blooming well out of winning the third series in 2006.

Leona’s first non-X Factor song blasts the others out of the water with 1,074,000 sales of Bleeding Love (One D’s What Makes You Beautiful sold 890,000). The success kept on coming for Leona as her debut album Spirit sold 3.1 million copies. By December last year, she became the first British female solo artist to score eight UK top five singles. She knocked just a little known star (Olivia Newton-John) off of the top spot. No biggie. Of course X Factor judge Cheryl has now gone and become the first female British singer to achieve five Number 1 singles. But hey, it wouldn’t be right to judge if she can’t do it herself.

There’s no knocking Leona’s success, but she appears to be the exception rather than the rule. Where’s Steve Brookstein’s latest track for example? Leon Jackson’s? Shayne Ward’s not been around for a while? Win, lose, draw (well, there’s never been a draw, but you get the idea) the X Factor can be a formidable launch pad regardless of where you come. 


The X Factor continues Saturday and Sunday at 8:00pm on ITV